Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Scott, John (fl.1654-1696)

SCOTT, JOHN (fl. 1654–1696), adventurer, first appeared on Long Island, New Netherlands, in 1654, when he was arrested by the Dutch authorities for treasonable practice with the neighbouring English. He represented himself as a disreputable boy who had got into trouble by annoying the parliamentary soldiers, and who had been transported to the plantations. In 1663 he was acting in England in conjunction with a number of respectable and influential New-Englanders, and with them petitioning the government to confirm a purchase of land made by them from the Narragansett Indians and disputed by the inhabitants of Rhode Island. Soon after he writes from Hartford, New England, denouncing the Dutch as intruders on Long Island. After the conquest of New Netherlands, he persuaded some of the English settlers on Long Island to form a provisional government pending a settlement by the Duke of York, with Scott himself for president, and he made some ineffectual attempts to exercise authority over the Dutch settlements on Long Island. In 1664 he was imprisoned by the government of Connecticut, and in the next year he engaged in a dispute with them as to the proprietary rights over certain lands on Long Island. Soon after Richard Nicolls, governor of New York, denounced Scott as 'born to work mischief,' and as having brought about the dismemberment of New York through the grant to Berkeley and Carteret of the lands on the Delaware. In 1667 he told Williamson, Arlington's secretary, a string of lies about New England. According to him, the antinomian disturbances in Massachusetts were caused by Sir Henry Vane and his two mistresses, Mrs. Hutchinson and Mrs. Dyer.

About this time Scott succeeded in imposing on an unhappy widow, Dorothea Gotherson, a landholder on Long Island. Her maiden name was Scott, and John Scott seems to have persuaded her that they were akin, and to have swindled her out of a large sum. He then returned to London. In 1677 he made common cause with Titus Oates, and charged Pepys and his colleague, Sir Anthony Deane, with betraying the secrets of the admiralty to the French, a charge which was no doubt intended to strike at Pepys's superior, the Duke of York. Pepys and Deane were committed for trial. Fortunately an inquiry into Scott's character disclosed so many iniquities—not only the frauds connected with land already mentioned, but also kidnapping and theft of jewels—that the prosecution was abandoned. Among Scott's other crimes, he is said to have swindled the Dutch government out of 7,000l., and to have been hanged in effigy at the Hague, an honour which he also enjoyed at the hands of his regiment, whose cashbox he carried off. He likewise offered the French court information which should enable them to destroy our fleet. In this case, however, it is said that he played the part of a double traitor, since the information was worthless. In 1681 he killed a hackney coachman and fled the kingdom, but was seen again in a seaman's disguise and reported to Pepys in 1696. After this we hear no more of him.

[State Papers (Col. Ser.), ed. Sainsbury; Brodhead's History of New York; Scott's Dorothea Scott; Pepys's Diary.]

J. A. D.